Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

To see the value and the beauty in ordinary things

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One of the most important –  and most neglected – elements in the beginnings of the interior life is the ability to respond to reality to see the value and the beauty in ordinary things to come alive to the splendor that is all around us in the creatures of God. We do not see these things because we have withdrawn from them. In a way we have to. In modern life our senses are so constantly bombarded with stimulation from every side that unless we developed a kind of protective insensibility we would go crazy trying to respond to all the advertisements at the same time!

The first step in the interior life, nowadays, is not, as some might imagine, learning not to see and taste and hear and feel things. On the contrary, what we must do is begin by unlearning our wrong ways of seeing, tasting, feeling, and so forth, and acquire a few of the right ones.

For asceticism is not merely a matter of renouncing television, cigarettes, and gin. Before we can begin to be ascetics, we first have to learn to see life as if it were something more than a hypnotizing telecast. And we must be able to taste something besides tobacco and alcohol: we must perhaps even be able to taste these luxuries themselves as if they too were good.

How can our conscience tell us whether or not we are renouncing things unless it first tells us that how to use them properly? For renunciation is not an end in itself: it helps us to use things better. It helps us to give them away. If reality revolts use if we merely turn away from it in disgust to whom shall we sacrifice it? How shall we consecrate it?. How shall we make of it a gift to God and to men?

Thomas Merton
No Man is an Island, pp. 33-34

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